NORTH Albury coach Jason Akermanis says any AFL club with “half a brain” will draft former St Kilda ace Jason Gram later this year.
Gram was sacked by the Saints in October for matters relating to his off-field behaviour but Akermanis said his star recruit had been nothing but a positive influence since arriving at Bunton Park.
“He should be in the AFL system and if anyone has got half a brain in that league they’ll know that at 28 years of age he’s still got plenty to give,” Akermanis declared.
“He is AFL standard.
“He shouldn’t be out of the AFL – let’s be honest – but he is and he’s with us.
“He’s shown a maturity since joining us that very little people would have in his situation.”
Akermanis, himself axed by the Western Bulldogs midway through the 2010 season, said Gram would be better for his Ovens and Murray experience.
The former Saint spoke with several AFL clubs after his sacking but opted not to nominate for the national draft.
The Brownlow medallist endorsed that move.
He warned Gram could return to the AFL an even better player.
“This path, for him, is going to be the reason why — if and when someone gets their brain together and gives him a spot — he’ll be a completely different player,” Akermanis said.
“Both mentally and physically.
“I think you’ll find he’ll be better for it and we’ll be better for having him.
“A year away from AFL footy is exactly what he needs.”
Gram, who polled a Brownlow vote in his final game for the Saints, has been a standout in both of the Hoppers’ pre-season hit-outs.
He told The Border Mail in January he would do “everything he could” to play at his best this year and promised to bring an AFL standard to the league.
More than 30 teams showed an interest in the 2008 Michael Tuck medallist before he joined the Hoppers.
Gram has also flagged an interest in pursuing an NFL punting career in America.